The first downtown business in the entertainment district is closing its doors. The Cantina Tortilla Grill Mexican restaurant will close September 28, but the city of Montgomery says it does not reflect the progress of other projects or development.
Developers say places like the Coosa Street Connection show promise in downtown Montgomery, but the city is asking for patience.
“Once you get a tenant into a building, it’s up to them to run the business,” Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes said about Cantina closing. “If they have challenges running the business, it doesn't mean the site is bad, it may mean the business concept is bad.”
Downes says Cantina is believed to gone downhill after its owner and head chef, Guillermo Castro, unexpectedly died last summer. Despite Cantina’s failure, the surrounding area is growing.
“It’s good to see almost a 180 from what it used to be,” said Montgomery native Andy Lushington, 29. “It used to be bums and tumbleweeds, and now you come down here and now its packed.”
The Alley took nearly 10 years to open, and now, the city says it's focusing on residential construction in both the Alley and Lower Dexter Avenue. However, the Downes says construction in older buildings poses some challenges and setbacks to developing at the same pace in a new building.
Downes also says the city has done retail studies that show an unmet demand for retail in downtown. “With roofs and beds comes retail,” he said.
Jerry Kyser Builders Inc. have been involved on revitalizing several spaces in the Alley. Vice President Kyle Kyser feels there’s a need for other presence in the entertainment district. “We love just some regular retail tenants, souvenir shops, some other type of something non-restaurant related would be a great addition to the Alley.”
Kyser says in about a month, his company may be announcing a new locally owned restaurant filling half of 121 Coosa. The empty building will also offer second level office and apartment space.
“The slower process has made a lot of development down here smarter,” Kyser said. “As opposed to when times are in a very hectic pace, people are thinking a lot more and I think we're getting a good blend of businesses down here.”
As for the development in the Coosa Street Connection and surrounding areas, developers like Kyser say they will transform into businesses by the beginning of next year.
Downes also said at least six businesses are interested in moving into Cantina's space.